The EPA recently announced that it will provide about $8 million to create two national centers for research and innovation in small- to medium-sized drinking water systems. “These centers will help to develop innovative and practical solutions for challenges faced by smaller drinking water systems, which make up the majority of public water systems in the United States,” an EPA spokesperson said in announcing the grant.
The recipients are the University of Colorado Boulder’s DeRISK (Design of Risk Reducing, Innovative Implementable Small System Knowledge) Center, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s WINSSS (Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems) Center. These two centers will use the funds to develop and test advanced, low cost methods to reduce water contaminants that present challenges to communities worldwide.
The EPA pointed out in announcing the grant that 97% of the nation’s roughly 160,000 public water systems serve fewer than 10,000 people each. These smaller systems face many obstacles, including limited resources, aging infrastructure, and difficulty complying with burdensome regulations. It is EPA’s hope that the innovation centers will help these systems overcome those obstacles by strengthening their technical, managerial and financial capabilities. The grants are intended to support the development of water “clusters” – geographically concentrated networks of businesses, researchers and others involved in water technology. Colorado and Massachusetts, the EPA pointed out, are both home to water cluster organizations that are leaders in developing innovative technologies and bringing them to market, “where they can solve water challenges that threaten health and daily activities while promoting technological innovation and economic growth.” The EPA feels that clusters focused on environmental technology have a key role to play in addressing problems such as those faced by smaller drinking water systems, because they spur innovation, accelerate the development of new technologies, and streamline the adoption of those technologies.